The Real Daisy Duke: How ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ Ruined Catherine Bach’s Career

Fri Jan 14 2022

There are certain actors in Hollywood who will forever be known for one very famous role – and Catherine Bach is one of them. While she’s an established actress with decades of experience under her belt, many Dukes of Hazzard fans will always know her as the one and only Daisy Duke. From her iconic denim shorts to her relationship with the good ol’ boys, her time alongside the General Lee will go down in history.

Catherine Bach’s time on the Hazzard County farm thrust her into the limelight and made her a recognizable name within the world of fame and fortune. What many fans don’t realize is that the same show that catapulted her to fame is the one that ruined her life and career. After all, when the show came to an end her life went in a downward spiral, and it’s never been the same as it once was.

Before Catherine Bach Landed the Role of Daisy Duke, She Was Actually Dropped by Her Agent

It’s no secret that Catherine Bach was relatively unknown before her role in Dukes of Hazzard. However, few know the extent of her troubles. Although Catherine made her first screen debut in 1973, she struggled to make her presence known in the acting world. Her work dried up so much that her agency actually fired her because she didn’t attend auditions – and because they didn’t believe that she had the looks to make it in Hollywood.

Her agents told her that she was “too exotic looking” and that they didn’t see any potential in her. According to Catherine, they laid their cards completely out on the table when they said: “We’re never going to make money off you. Aside from doing a movie here and there, we don’t see a television series in your future. We just don’t see that kind of thing happening. So we’re going to let you go because it’s a lot of work representing you.”

Catherine Was Determined to Make It, So She Decided to Create Her Own One-Woman Show

After growing up on a ranch in South Dakota, Catherine Bach had dreams of seeing her name in lights – so she wasn’t going to let the fact that she had been fired ruin her spirit. She was passionate about her craft, and she wanted to push her acting talent as far as it could go. Because of this, she decided to create a one-woman show and perform it to the masses.

Amazingly, her one-woman show was extremely well received by those who saw it, and she was supported by her husband David Shaw along the way. As the step-son of iconic actress Angela Lansbury, David was also very well connected to those in the industry. When Catherine’s husband started working with Bob Clark, who just so happened to be working with The Dukes of Hazzard creator, Gy Waldron, he passed his wife’s name along.

When the Actress Was Asked to Audition For the Role of Daisy Duke, She Immediately Refused

Thanks to her husband’s connections in the entertainment world, Bob Clark heard Catherine Bach’s name for the first time and was intrigued by her dedication. While he knew that she didn’t have much of a resume under her belt, he’d asked around and heard stories of her one-woman performance and her incredible acting ability. So, he knew what he had to do.

Bob told Catherine, “I’m working on this project and I’ve been thinking about you… I would love for you to try out for this role.” However, what Bob didn’t realize was that word about the upcoming Dukes of Hazzard project had already reached the actress. She’s heard enough about it to make her snap decision, and she immediately replied “No, no, no.”

She Originally Rejected the Idea of Becoming Daisy Duke Because Showrunners Wanted a Dolly Parton Lookalike

Catherine had heard through the grapevine exactly the kind of girl the showrunners wanted to play Daisy Duke – and she just knew that she didn’t fit the bill. She noted that “They were looking for a particular type of girl – lots of blonde hair and an hourglass figure.” But that’s not the only reason that she turned down the chance to audition. She also knew that they were being extremely picky with their casting.

Catherine told the Beaver County Times that “Here’s the thing – they’ve been looking for a year for that part. They went to New York, Chicago, Atlanta, George, and California. Nothing. So I said, “That’s very nice of you to think of me, and I know you’re doing this as a favor to my husband, but you don’t have to.” However, Bob continued to persist. He hit back with, “I really want you to come in.”

A Few Weeks Later, Catherine’s Friend Convinced Her to Attend the Audition After All

In Catherine’s head, there was absolutely no point in attending the audition for The Dukes of Hazzard. She knew that she wasn’t the type of girl they were looking for, and she just didn’t see the point. But a few weeks later she was having dinner with her friend in Beverly Hills when the audition came up in conversation.

Catherine told her friend, “I do have this audition that I’m supposed to go to, but I’m not… you know the part of Daisy Duke for Warner Bros.? They want me to come in, but I know I’m not going to get it.” Her friend couldn’t believe her ears and quipped back with “It’s Warner Bros. You never know who you’re going to meet on the way in and on the way out. Just go!” So, Catherine decided to go.

Catherine Eventually Agreed to Audition, and She Received a Full Standing Ovation When It Came to an End

With her friend’s advice in her ears, Catherine knew that – even if she didn’t get the part – the audition would be a great experience and a way to potentially shmooze with people on the Warner Bros. lot. She prepared her lines for the audition, and then she read them perfectly in front of 30 complete strangers. But when she finished, those same strangers sat in complete silence for a minute.

Immediately, Catherine thought “Oh no, they didn’t like what I did.” But then, out of nowhere, all of the people in front of her stood up from their chairs and started clapping. She noted that “They just connected with my vision of how this part should be played.” Unfortunately, not everyone agreed with the standing ovation, though.

The Producers of the Show Were Out Sick When She Auditioned, and They Didn’t Want Her to Get the Part

Although Catherine received a standing ovation from a huge member of The Dukes of Hazzard team, they weren’t really the ones that mattered. That’s because the producers and businesspeople backing the project were all out sick on the day of her audition. But when they heard that the frontrunner for Daisy Duke wasn’t a blonde Dolly Parton lookalike, they weren’t happy.

Thankfully, all of the people who gave Catherine a standing ovation were willing to bat for her and tell the people at the top how perfect she was for the role. In her words, she’s noted that “I got the part before anybody could say no.” However, Catherine knew that she had to prove herself, as she’d already realized that the Hollywood world was cutthroat.

Producers Tried to Get Daisy Duke Recast, but They Changed Their Minds When They Realized That Fans Loved Catherine

Even when The Dukes of Hazzard started filming in 1978, the producers of the show still weren’t convinced by Catherine Bach’s role as Daisy Duke. They still didn’t think that she was the right person for the job, and they tried to get her recast on multiple occasions – even after the first episode started airing in 1979. However, that all changed when they received audience feedback.

While viewers fell in love with the location, the storyline, and even Catherine’s on-screen cousins, played by John Schneider and Tom Wopat, the overwhelming feedback was that Bach was most definitely the right actress to play Daisy Duke. She seemed like a natural on the farm, and she brought to life the story in the most magical way. It was her outfits that really got everyone talking…

Originally, Producers Wanted Daisy Duke to Wear a Poodle Skirt to Match the Tablecloths

To this day, short denim shorts are known as “Daisy Dukes” – all thanks to Catherine Bach and her role in the show. However, denim shorts and skimpy tops weren’t the first costume choices that the producers settled on. Originally, producers wanted Catherine to wear a poodle skirt that matched the tablecloths found at the Boar’s Nest, where Daisy worked as a waitress.

Catherine couldn’t believe the costume choice when she heard it. She said, “You want me to match the tablecloth? That’s demeaning to women.” But the production team wanted to make it known that this wasn’t their unique idea. She confessed that “They took me across the street from the Warner Brothers, and sure enough, there were these older ladies waitressing at this little Italian restaurant wearing poodle skirts that matched the tablecloth.”

Catherine Suggested Using Her Own Denim Shorts and Top as a Costume, and the Producers Eventually Backed Down

Although Catherine Bach could see that the waitresses in the Italian restaurant looked adorable wearing their poodle skirts, the actress just couldn’t see Daisy Duke wearing such a thing. She knew that Daisy’s costume needed to be skimpier, and more in keeping with the country theme of the show. Thankfully, she had a plan up her sleeve.

Although the producers had suggested an alternative costume of go-go boots, a blonde wig, and a white turtleneck, Catherine still wasn’t convinced. So, she went home and “got my jean shorts that I could never get even, with cowboy boots and a little top” and the producers loved it. They backed down and decided to go with her idea, but even Catherine’s simple outfit came with even more challenges.

Censoring Rules Meant That Catherine’s Legs Couldn’t Be on Show, but She Solved That Problem by Wearing Pantyhose

During the late ’70s and even into the early ’80s, television networks had strict rules when it came to modesty and censorship. In CBS’s case, they were extremely wary of any kind of clothing that was too revealing – especially if it had the chance to expose more than the world needed to see. Because of this, Daisy Duke’s denim shorts were called into question.

In order to satisfy the censors of the network, Catherine Bach couldn’t just wear her shorts or remain bare-legged. Instead, she had to wear pantyhose under her shorts – and while this wasn’t completely obvious to the naked eye, when you look back at old photos you can just about see the flesh-colored pantyhose. And while they managed to avoid a major problem by doing this, little did Catherine know that a bigger problem was on the horizon.

The More Successful the Show Became, the More Chaos It Caused in Catherine’s Personal Life

All in all, The Dukes of Hazzard ran from 1979 until 1985, and it quickly became one of the most successful and most iconic shows on television. Fans fell in love with the comradery between the characters, the action, and the comedy, and it allowed Catherine Bach to achieve what she had always wanted – a long-term career in the acting world. Unfortunately, things weren’t so great for the actress at home.

As we all know, becoming a household name comes with its challenges – mostly because of the exposure. As people watched Catherine on their screens, they couldn’t help but question who she was, how she interacted with other actors, and whether anything untoward was going on behind the scenes. Catherine’s husband definitely didn’t appreciate the rumors that started going around about her.

Two Years After The Dukes of Hazzard Came Onto Our Screens, Catherine’s Marriage Came Crumbling Down

Although everything seemed to be on the up for Catherine and her career, the same couldn’t be said for her marriage. She had married David Shaw in 1976, before the actress rose to fame and became a public figure, and her newfound fame was hard for her husband to understand. Plus, rumors suggested that there was more going on on-set than we realized.

As these unconfirmed stories seemed to suggest that Catherine was having an extra-marital affair with her co-stars, John Schneider and Tom Wopat, David Shaw struggled under this new weight. Catherine herself confused, “On a personal level, my husband at the time didn’t like me working. So I was going through this hard time emotionally trying to be independent and assertive.”

Although Catherine Denied Having Affairs With Her Co-stars, Her Marriage Couldn’t Survive

Over the years, rumors about Catherine’s supposed affairs with her two co-stars continued to spiral – but Bach always denied it. She has noted that “Let me say this — as much as those guys were the most charming, sexiest friends and men on the planet and women all over just adored them — they were really like my brothers.”

She expanded on that notion, saying “As much as I appreciate them, there’s no way I would be, as you say, hooking up with them. Just look at your brother or whoever is really close to you and go “Can I do this?” It’s a no.” Despite her attempts to build back her relationship, her efforts were futile, and she and her husband officially got divorced in 1981.

Catherine’s Legs Were Insured for $1 Million, but the Show Pushed Her in Directions She Didn’t Want to Go

Despite the fact that The Dukes of Hazzard played with her personal life, the show certainly thrust her into stardom – and fans absolutely adored Catherine Bach. They not only loved her acting talent, but they also loved her beauty and the fact that she regularly wore her ‘Daisy Duke’ short shorts for filming. In fact, her legs became such a hot commodity that the producers decided to insure them.

Amazingly, her legs were insured for a whopping $1 million throughout the duration of the show, making her even more desirable in the entertainment world. Fans could see that Catherine was in for an impressive future within the world of Hollywood, but it seems as though Catherine herself wasn’t pleased about the direction her career was being pushed in. Especially when it came to her famous poster.

Her Famous Poster Sold 5 Million Copies, but Catherine Had to Do This All Herself After She Fell Out With Her Team

Thanks to the success of the show, Warner Bros. and the production team at The Dukes of Hazzard wanted to profit from Catherine’s fame on the show. So, they asked her to pose for a poster that they would sell to the masses – but they had a vision in mind that didn’t meet with Catherine’s own vision. She noted that, “Warner Bros. wanted me to follow the same formula as Farrah Fawcett… But I felt like audiences wanted something else. They wanted an all-American country girl.”

She continued, “They said, ‘If you’re not doing it our way, we’re not paying for it.’ … I said, ‘No problem, I’ll do it.’ So I took those shorts, a little red and white top I made…. I did my own makeup and got some daisies… A friend of mine shot that poster, front start to finish, in an hour.” Amazingly, that poster sold 5 million copies, and Nancy Reagan even had it up on her wall in the White House.

When the Show Came to an End, Everyone Knew Her as Daisy Duke and Only Daisy Duke

All in all, The Dukes of Hazzard kept Catherine Bach busy for seven seasons, and while she managed to bag a few other projects during this time, her main role came in the form of this iconic show. In many television fans’ eyes, Catherine was Daisy Duke – and they couldn’t imagine her playing any other role.

With this image in their minds, fans and even casting agents alike couldn’t imagine her in different movies or television shows. She had been typecast as the beautiful country girl, and in Hollywood, those roles were in short supply. Like at the beginning of her career, though, Catherine didn’t give up hope. She hoped her career would pick up again – but it didn’t really happen.

It Took Two Years for Catherine to Find Another Acting Job After The Dukes of Hazzard Came to an End

In fact, she landed her next acting role in 1987 – a whopping two years after The Dukes of Hazzard came to an end. After that, she managed to score a few more gigs, but even they were for small and minor roles. She had gone from such a high as the leading lady to a supporting cast member within just a few years, and she didn’t quite know what to do with herself.

However, Catherine still maintains to this day that her career is not over. She’s stated that “I know who I am and I’m not worried about it. And everything can’t be the biggest hit. You can get the biggest part every single time. All I can do as an actress is deliver the work the best way I can. And I don’t mind if people still call me Daisy Duke or associate me with her. I think it’s cute and charming.” But with limited work in the 1990s, she had to focus on something else.

In 1990, Catherine Married Her Second Husband and Took Time Out to Focus On Her New Family

During the ’90s, Catherine managed to land herself a recurring role in the Canadian adventure drama, African Skies – but this wasn’t enough to keep her completely busy. Thankfully, she had a distraction in her life. In 1990, she met and fell in love with entertainment lawyer Peter Lopez. They had an instant connection, and by the end of the year, they were married.

A few years later they had welcomed two daughters into the world, and Catherine soon found herself consumed with love. While she still had her acting career at the back of her mind, she first and foremost wanted to care for her children – even if that meant that she had to take a step away from the limelight. And, for a decade or so, Catherine Bach lived in perfect harmony. Then everything came crashing down.

Catherine Lost Her Husband Completely Out of the Blue in 2010, and It Broke Her

Without a huge acting schedule under her belt, Catherine had time to focus on her family and her husband – that’s why an event in 2010 came as a complete shock to her. Out of nowhere, her husband took his own life. The day it happened was a day like any other, and Catherine couldn’t understand why he had done it. In the past, many have asked whether Catherine saw any signs of distress in her husband.

She’s noted that, “I saw anxiety but a lot of people that have big careers, which he certainly had, have anxiety when they’re making a big deal. He represented Michael Jackson, and you know how crazy that was… So I think that he felt very responsible for what happened to Michael. And I think that that gave him a lot of grief. He had a lot of clients that he was making big deals for and I think that there was a certain anxiety that came about with that.”

The Whole Family Struggled With the Loss of the Husband and Father, but Catherine Wanted to Make Him Proud

The tragic event of Peter’s passing shook the whole family to the core. Catherine spiraled into depression herself, and her daughters didn’t know how to cope with the sudden loss of their father. She confessed that, “We were so devastated. When you are part of a happy family unit, you lose part of that… I mean, we were completely insulated and happy with our family…Their dad was everything to them.”

The family still struggles with the grief today, stating that Peter’s death “will always be a loss no matter what happens in our lives, no matter how great it is. It is always going to be bittersweet because our little circle of light and family was everything to us.” However, after a while, Catherine knew that she couldn’t wallow for the rest of her own life. She needed to live it, and she needed to make her late husband proud.

In 2012, Catherine Had a Comeback When She Landed a Recurring Role in The Young and the Restless

After Catherine made it her mission to make her husband proud, she knew that she needed to get back onto the acting horse and try to continue her career. However, her name was still associated with Daisy Duke and The Dukes of Hazzard – so it wasn’t easy. Finally, in 2012, she landed a recurring role in the popular soap opera The Young and the Restless.

In this role, she took on the character of Anita Lawson, and it’s fair to say that she made an impression on fans. She made her way back and forth to the studio for seven years but eventually hung up her character’s boots in 2019. Since then, she hasn’t starred in any other acting project, and many believe that she’s unofficially retired. Catherine has a very interesting perspective on why her career didn’t take off as much as it could have, though.

Catherine Believes Her Career Has Struggled Because She’s Not Been Involved in Any Major Scandal

Catherine knows that people will always know her as Daisy Duke – and she sees that as both a positive and a negative. But she doesn’t think the fact that she’s been typecast has ruined her career as much as the fact that she’s just a normal woman who likes to act. In Catherine’s eyes, you need to be scandalous to make it big in Hollywood, as that means that all eyes are on you.

For the most part, Catherine’s life has been free from scandal. When asked about how she has managed to stay away from drama, she noted that “I don’t know. I’m interested in having a good time. I’m not interested in drugs. Just think about where those drugs come from. It’s disgusting. Just watch Narcos and you’ll see why you shouldn’t be around that. It’s horrible. I wouldn’t even consider that. As for alcohol? I’ll have a drink, sure, but I won’t let anything take over me. My love for my family, my children and I, ultimately, prevent that.

Today, She’s Living a Relatively Quiet Life That’s Very Different to the One of Daisy Duke

Since leaving The Young and the Restless in 2019, Catherine Bach hasn’t been in search of scandal, either. It seems as though she’s come to the realization that her acting career will continuously struggle – especially as she gets older. So, she’s decided to take a breather and live a quiet life instead.

But many of her fans believe that it was her most famous role that pushed her over the edge and pushed her out of the limelight., After all, she’ll always be Daisy Duke – and we all know how one role can affect the rest of your life. The Dukes of Hazzard thrust her into the limelight, sure, but it also pushed her out of it as soon as it came to an end.